Police have apologised after they stopped a woman wearing a “F**k Boris” T-shirt in the street and told her it was illegal.
Jessie-Lu Flynn, a performer and director, said that officers implied she would be arrested if she did not cover up the slogan as she left a Black Lives Matter protest in central London.
She launched legal action against the British Transport Police (BTP) last week, arguing they breached her human rights by trying to stop her expressing her political opinions about the prime minister.
The BTP has now written to Ms Flynn to admit the officers were wrong to tell her to cover up.
“We can confirm that we have apologised to the claimant for any distress that was caused to her by the direction to cover her t-shirt, and we have admitted that this direction was unlawful,” the force said in a statement.
Ms Flynn’s solicitors, Bhatt Murphy, welcomed the admission and apology. Lawyers Joanna Khan and Michael Oswald said: “They should serve as a strong reminder to police officers that the freedom to express political opinion, and to criticise politicians, is fundamental to a free and democratic society.
“Invoking the criminal law to limit that freedom will be unacceptable and unlawful in all but the most extreme circumstances.”
Footage of Ms Flynn’s encounter with two BTP officers at Oxford Circus shows her asking the police: “You think it’s illegal for me to have this T-shirt on? Based on what law?”
One officer replies that it violates Section 5 of the Public Order Act, which states it is an offence to use “threatening words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour” or display “any writing, sign or visible representation which is threatening or abusive” while “within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress thereby”.
When she asked “Why would that cause harassment? To who?”, the officer replied: “To other people. People will find that offensive.”
Ms Flynn told The Guardian she had worn the t-shirt on several occasions previously without being challenged by police. “Now I can be confident that I can wear the T-shirt without fear of arrest,” she said.